24 April 2018

You helped connect Nathan with hope

Posted in Chaplaincy


When sports enthusiast Nathan learned his leg would be amputated on his 16th birthday to save his life from bone cancer, he was understandably crushed.

Through your support for school chaplaincy, Nathan and his family can now see hope on the horizon.

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital School’s chaplain, Sarah Petchell, has been journeying with the family since their first meeting in ICU last year. For Nathan’s mum, Jillian, the timing was perfect.

“It was very godly timed,” she said.

“We were in the ICU after we’d had a surgery to make Nathan’s ankle into his new knee joint, and Chappy Sarah came along.

“She shared a story with Nathan about life being like a river, and sometimes big boulders get thrown into the river but they don’t stay big boulders – with all the water rushing over them, over time they get worn down, so those things that seemed initially like big hurdles get worn down into perspective but they don’t stop the flow at all.”

Chappy Sarah, a World Championship Powerlifting athlete and part-time soldier, bonded with Nathan and his family while he was in intensive care and quickly devised a way to help encourage them.

Using her military contacts, Chappy Sarah called her friend, Gold Coast-based Paralympian and Rio Paralympics gold medal winner Curtis McGrath, who lost both legs to a landmine explosion in Afghanistan in 2012.

“I wanted to bring Nathan some encouragement so I got in touch with Curtis and asked if he could make an encouragement video for Nathan so I could play it to him’, and Curtis goes, ‘Nah, I don’t want to make a video, I’ll come up’.”

For Jillian and her husband Ken, this act of support and encouragement from a stranger meant the world.

“We were just blown away that Curtis would visit the hospital so quickly. It was good timing,” Jillian said between tears.

“I can still see the look on Nathan’s face when Curtis walked through the door. Curtis walks in, this big, tall, strong, buff-looking guy on two prosthetic legs, so I think it gave Nathan a bit of hope.”

Chappy Sarah said Curtis visited with Nathan the day before he flew out to the World Champions for paracanoe, and was able to talk about the reality and practicality of living life as an amputee, as well as show off his gold medal.

“Curtis showed him the different legs he has, what he can do with the legs, and he was really positive in talking about how lots of opportunities have opened up for him,” Chappy Sarah said.

“It helped Nathan see that this doesn’t have to be a life-shattering deal. You can turn negative things in your life into positives that project you forward and further.”

More than eight months on, Jillian will often send Chappy Sarah updates and photos of Nathan riding his bike and enjoying life.

“I was just hoping it was an encouragement to him but I think it was a big encouragement to his family, for his mum and dad.”

Jillian agreed.

“For Nathan to meet Curtis so quickly after he lost his leg, it just gave him hope there is life after your leg has been amputated. Whatever you want to set your mind to doing, you go for it; find a way to make it work,” Jillian said.

Nathan is now home on the family’s grain property west of Toowoomba, in Year 12, and waiting for his first prosthetic leg to be made and then fitted.

Chappy Sarah’s love and support for Nathan and his family is just one story of many you’ve helped make possible through your support of school chaplaincy.

You can help keep this support going by visiting suqld.org.au/donate.



Jennifer Kerr

Media and Communications Administrator

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